Microsoft wows with accessibility tools at the BDA International Conference

A guest blog post written by Arran Smith, UK Dyslexia & SEND Consultant to Microsoft and the SEND Group

At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. This is so true when it comes to accessibility. It is estimated that 10% of the UK population that have some severity of dyslexia with a further 4% of the population classified as severely dyslexic.

I classify myself as a severely dyslexic adult, my reading and spelling age is significantly lower than my chronological age. I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was aged nine and for many years I felt the dyslexia was very negative and often described the feeling of like going to the dentist. The anxiety, stress, the butterflies and trying to get out of it but when I understood my dyslexia and my strengths I was able to use this difference to its full ability.

Earlier in April Microsoft supported and attended the British Dyslexia Associations International Conference. The BDA IC is a peer-reviewed academic conference that had over 600 delegates from just under 200 different countries attend. They were teachers, specialists, psychologists, researchers and academics and they come together every 2 - 3 years to present the new findings and research in the world of dyslexia.

As this year’s conference was supported by Microsoft the conference delegates were delighted to have Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft's Chief Accessibility Officer, set the tone and open the conference along with taking a masterclass in her views of empowering every person in every organisation. Hector Minto, Microsoft's Accessibility Evangelist, hosted a number of the talks throughout the conference.

The conference is over three days, and, on the Saturday, we were delighted to have over 80 parents attending. Our exhibition stand was demonstrating the inbuilt tools in Office 365 and Windows 10 to support those with dyslexia such as Immersive Reader in OneNote, Spell Check and Read Out Loud in Microsoft Word and Edge, as well as our amazing application seeing AI. The biggest comment we received was that we are blowing people’s minds by having the technology inbuilt and freely available to children, adults and the education community to help support people with dyslexia.

As the U.K.’s Dyslexia and SEND Consultant at Microsoft my role is to spread more awareness about these free inbuilt tools and features that can be used across all sectors. If you'd like to find out more about the work Microsoft is doing with accessibility, click here to find out more about the amazing tools available from Microsoft. You can also take a look at how to get started with accessibility tools and Immersive Reader on our dedicated Microsoft pages.

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